Competition is one of the oldest event styles in human history. And winning feels just as good now as it did to folks living thousands of years ago. We assume, anyway.
Esports have long since become a global phenomenon. These competitions can bring out some really fierce—but hopefully friendly—rivalries. Let’s cover the fundamentals of organising a gaming tournament!
1. Tourney basics
To begin, here are a few things you’ll need to get nailed down well before the day of the competition.
Choose your game
What game will your guests be playing? This little question makes for a lot of planning. Your choice will impact time, space, equipment, and competition structure.
For example, a game like Street Fighter doesn’t require an internet connection or a local area network. Players can simply share screens if the tournament is in one physical location. But a game like Player Unknown: Battlegrounds demands that everyone has his or her own rig.
It’ll also be important to remember that while some games feature fast-paced matches, others will be slow and drawn out.
Know your game
We’re not sure why anyone would be organising a gaming tournament for a game they don’t know. So whatever game you choose, make sure you are at least a casual player. If you don’t know anything about the rules or the metagame, you’ll be dealing with some irritable gamers. They expect you to know your stuff!
Serving the competition
If you’re organising a gaming tournament, be ready to act as referee, tech crew, human calculator, and whatever else comes up. A tourney is a living machine, and it needs you to keep it up and running. This goes for any staff you hire as well.
2. Choosing a venue
Once it’s out of your head and onto paper, your gaming tourney has to make one last trip: To the venue!
Here are the main options you have:
Organiser’s living space
You’ve gotta start somewhere. Is this is your first gaming tournament? Don’t feel silly if your own abode is option numero uno. Convenient? Maybe not. But hey, no venue fees, right?
It’s not uncommon for stores these days to sell both board games and video games together. Locations like these can work really well for gaming tournaments. They have all that space for card game tournaments or game demos.
Since you’re bringing customers to their doors, you may be able to negotiate a good venue fee. However, they may impose certain restrictions like relying only on store credit as prizes.
Tip: Here’s a look at some UK gaming spaces that host tournaments.
Official event spaces
Here’s where the big dogs play. This kind of venue may not be where you start, but budding tournament organisers dream that their competitions will make it to public event spaces.
Bigger tourneys will actually require a space like this: a convention centre, hotel, indoor arena, and so on. Sometimes, these venues come with staff members to assist your tournament or electronic equipment you can use.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, this is the most expensive option. You’ll need a healthy entrance fee to cover the costs. As such, usually only big-name events will be able to pull this off.
Tip: Worried about money? Manage your budget like a pro with a little guidance.
In some cases, you can just quit the physical world and go digital. If a game already has an active online community, or there are no shared screens, this might be the best option.
A lot of the normal venue prep work goes out the window, but you do lose certain conveniences. For instance, how can you be sure players will know when it’s their turn to compete? And if one player’s router gets unplugged by the cat, well, it’s game over.
Sorry, we had to fit that phrase in somewhere.
Tip: We’ve got your venue basics here in our guide to locating that perfect spot.
3. Equipment setup
This applies mainly to in-person competitions. If you’re organising a huge gaming tournament, people might expect you to provide the necessary equipment.
But in most tourneys, you’ll be asking your guests to BYOB. This is an ideal method not only because it saves you time, but because the players get to use the equipment they know and love.
Whatever the case, you must apply the rule of the lowest common denominator: All gaming rigs must operate at the quality level of the least capable unit. Otherwise, players with the highest frame rates and best graphics gain an unfair advantage.
Also, be sure to label every bit of equipment used. You don’t want players losing valuable personal items like gaming controllers and nice monitors.
Tip: Gaming lounges can subtract a lot of setup work from your plate. They’re meant for gaming!
4. Tournament structure
If a game is good enough for a tournament to organise around it, there is probably an accepted competitive format.
Research that format and use it. Try not to modify anything too heavily. This would include things like time limits, damage values, hit points, and so on. The idea is to uphold the generally accepted standards. Don’t be afraid to appeal to tradition!
In the beginning, you will most often be building a tournament using the single or double elimination formats. However, feel free to reach out to the community before the tournament to get a feel for any changes you’re thinking of making.
5. Digital tools
Got your tournament structure? Good. Now you need a way to record rankings. Technology has you covered. Here are a few of our favourite options in tournament platforms:
- ALJ Tournament Maker records rankings, monitors entry fees, and helps with prize management.
- Battlefy has an easy-to-use interface for viewers who want to keep track of the goings-on.
- Toornament is a popular esports platform with a special option for the tech-savvy: You can use its tournament engine to custom-create your own esports platform.
- Challonge is a commonly used organiser with mobile access and public streaming options.
Tip: Looking for software tools to help with selling tickets? There are lots of quality options to think about.
Just a few words on prizing. You want to split your entrance fee. Use it to fund the pot and the venue costs. Look at what other tournaments are charging to get a feel for the right value.
A high entry fee will discourage all but the best players. Of course, if it’s too low, the best players may not take it seriously. You’re selling an experience, not a lottery ticket.
Competitors should feel comfortable paying the entry fee just for the fun of being involved. Even so, the prize structure should have winnings for the top few ranks. Here’s an example from Toornament.com:
Tip: Have a look at these tips for determining tournament payouts to help you settle on your own prizing.
What’s your experience organising gaming tournaments? Success stories? Horror stories? We want to hear it all, so share your thoughts in the comments section below!